I Write Like….

In surfing around the Internet I chanced across the latest viral craze site: I Write Like…. It’s a site where you supply a sample of your writing, and the site reveals which famous author you write like. It’s a fun idea and I was kind of wondering if I’d get tagged as writing as myself. (It might seem a bit arrogant to believe I’d be considered a famous writer, but I have hit the Bestseller list numerous times, have forty books out, bunches of short stories and articles, and my very own Wikipedia page, so a couple more folks than just my mom know of me.)

The first sample I tried was a chunk of At the Queen’s Command The result:

I write like
J. R. R. Tolkien

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

That one makes a certain amount of sense. The dialogue is a bit older, so I can see where it could get broken down as Tolkienesque. It is an epic fantasy, after all, but not medieval, and I did give the website 20,000 words to chew on. (Got to love Cut and Paste.)

Still, I’ve always thought that I had multiple styles—I shift gears depending on what the job demands. So next I tried one of the Trick Molloy stories, Little Girl Lost. I figured it would be a match for Raymond Chandler or Dash Hammett or Mickey Spillane. The result:

I write like
Dan Brown

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

I guess I really can’t complain too much about being compared to Dan Brown. I sincerely hope all of his fans find out about the comparison. If they want to come and snag some of my stories while waiting for his next book, well, um, gosh, I can afford to replace the server such orders would burn out.

But this story got me thinking in the vein of detective stories, so I pulled up a copy of The Silver Knife. That story is very strongly Arthur Conan Doyle, right down to being tied into the Holmes Mythos. This one had to be a slam-dunk, right?

Well, I got Mythos, just not the Mythos I was thinking about:

I write like
H. P. Lovecraft

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

Lovecraft? Well, I guess so. Fog, blood, demons, silver, polite folks speaking politely, all written in the first person. I guess I can see that. So I decided to give the site a story that I thought was rather Lovecraftian. Yes, I know, it didn’t work with Doyle, but what the heck. I fed it Covenant.

I got back:

I write like
James Joyce

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

James Joyce? Holy cats. I’ve tried to read Ulysses twice. I got three pages once, one and a half the next time. Covenant is hardly ambitious or obscure; it’s a pretty straight-up story. It doesn’t even approach literature. I wrote it to be read aloud, so that ranking completely baffled me.

I decided to take one last shot. I pulled out The Adventure of the Ghost Watch. I wrote it as a YA story, simple and clean, and of a grade level that meant that fifth and sixth graders (11-12 year olds) could read it easily. That’s not to say I dumbed it down at all. I just made the sentences a bit shorter, and simplified the vocabulary—using the kinds of words my protagonists would. (For example, they’d not say protagonist, they’d say hero.) I figured I’d get Franklin Dixon (Hardy Boys), or maybe R. L. Stine.

Instead I got:

I write like
Cory Doctorow

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

Seriously?

It strikes me as odd that my work is likened to an author who is younger than me. I suppose that’s kind of a good thing, since it would indicate that I can produce a style which is relevant for up and coming audiences. Still, it is rather curious.

I have no idea how many authors they have to compare against, or if they are adding more every day. It’s definitely good to know that I can appear to be many different writers. I suspect that such flexibility will be a good survival trait for the coming times.

Though it does leave open one question, however: Is there a me I actually write like?

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13 Responses to “I Write Like….”

  1. I don’t know what the logic behind it is, but it’s not examining anyone’s writing style. It’s been determined that the website exists primarily to spread someone’s links around the internet… in order to increase search engine traffic. See: http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/012502.html for more details. ;)

  2. There’s not a whole lot of author options, and I think it’s worth pointing out that the creator seems strongly averse to adding any to increase the diversity of the list: http://zia-narratora.livejournal.com/627422.html (There are three women authors and no black authors as options.)

  3. @Kaitlyn: Like BLC pointed out, this is essentially a sleazy marketing tool. It is not surprising that the creator is going for the maximum sleaze amount possible.

  4. For what it’s worth, an interview with the developer: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/07/17/i-write-like-website-goes_n_650037.html?ir=Technology

    I got Chuck Palahniuk and then Douglas Adams. Happy with those results, I didn’t do any further tests.

  5. Apparently I don’t write like you, either. The first sample (from my 2009 NaNoWriMo winner text) got me Dan Brown. Second and third got Ursula K. Le Guin. Not bad company to be in, I guess.

  6. Reading an interview with the designer, I didn’t get the impression the site was put up as a marketing tool. I’m not surprised he has ads on it, and links to the various author’s books. That just makes sense. He’s got to pay for bandwidth somehow. And, heck, if that’s what makes it a “sleazy marketing tool,” then my site would have to be right up there beside it. :)

  7. In the “For What it’s Worth” department, text copied from any one of a dozen major classics at gutenbrg.org consistently failed to be written like the real authors.

  8. It could just be another internet meme. They obviously just have a finite number of authors. It’s nothing to take seriously.

    I got Chuck Palahniuk, Dan Brown, Cory Doctorow, and Raymond Chandler.

  9. It says I write like David Frost Wallace. That is a bit of good luck, since I have never read anything he has written and cannot be accused of Plagerism of being an obvious copycat.

  10. Mike, you definitely don’t write like James Joyce. Like you, I’m not sure if that’s a compliment, or not. ;)

    Total non sequitur, but that somehow reminded me of when in my early teens, I listened to a recording of Richard Burton reading Dylan Thomas. Wow…

  11. I’d definitely argue that you write like YOU. I can’t think of any other books I’ve read that felt the same as yours. (don’t know if I could recognize your writing in a blind test, but…I’d like to think I’m that clever even though I know better!)

  12. I got Isaac Asimov… Not what I figured, but as you found, the results are funny.